Beta love: Ianthe, All_the_Feels, SheLitaFire, SSC, and Wild Concerto
Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
General Hux's Quarters
Stationary Orbit above Naboo
Armitage Hux paced back and forth, a black shadow in front of his space view windows. He stopped abruptly and smoothed his coat before activating his comm.
"My quarters. Now."
He knew his underling would take no more than three minutes to arrive, and he made full use of it, taking deep breaths to calm himself and ensure that his inner turmoil did not show in his immaculate uniform. Satisfied with his appearance, he stood motionless, observing the stationary stars from his window.
The soft swish of the doors opening heralded Ofan's arrival. "Sir."
"Yes, Captain. I have a job for you."
Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren led the solemn processional from the arena to the burial site. They made an impressive sight, six knights walking in step behind the imposing figure of the Supreme Leader. They walked steadily, giving the ever-increasing crowd time to see the funeral cortege for the fallen princess. And for the natives of this planet, she would always be royalty. It didn't matter that she hadn't ever been their queen; she was the daughter of one of their most beloved monarchs, and she had been raised as a princess, a future ruler of Alderaan.
She was royalty indeed.
Rey stood, cowl raised to help disguise her identity, frozen in place as the procession approached. The General, and she was a General to Rey, was being transported behind a team of faithers in a carriage with dozens of Naboo dressed in ceremonial black cloaks with silver embroidery following behind on foot. She felt Kylo's conflicted emotions, like a storm in the Force as he drew abreast of her before the carriage, and his expressionless mask turned towards her as they continued their steady pace. She shrank back to try to avoid detection by the Knights of Ren behind him.
"I thought you would leave." His voice spoke directly into her mind.
"I wanted to," she answered.
"Why didn't you, then?"
"I - couldn't. But I have to; I can't stay."
"I'll find you."
The words could have easily been threatening, but for Rey they weren't. "Ben, you aren't alone."
Neither Rey nor Kylo questioned the telepathic connection between the two of them. It already had the feeling of a familiar road, one that would never disappear, unlike the impermanent paths on the shifting sands of a desert planet. No. This felt - real, substantial, eternal.
Rey watched as the procession continued onward. Godspeed, Leia. Rest now. She felt a glimmer, a whisper of the General's familiar spirit, and blinked rapidly, fighting to keep the tears contained. A single one dropped, leaving a streak down her cheek. Godspeed.
She knew that she couldn't attend the burial without exposing herself to the stormtroopers guarding the palace and grounds, so reluctantly Rey turned and went back to the public hangar where the A-wing and C9 awaited her.
It was time to go.
Finn, Rose, and Poe gathered around the holonet player and watched the solemn procession as it filed by on the projection. Poe's face appeared drawn, cheeks hollowed and dark bags under his eyes.
"I can't believe she's not coming back," he murmured.
Rose leaned into Finn, and he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her even closer, trying to offer her comfort as he stroked his hand up and down her arm. He watched the processional closely, and when Kylo's head turned to the right briefly, Finn spotted a humanoid female, face partially obscured by her scarf. He couldn't be certain, but he would have bet his last credit, if he had any, that it was Rey under the gray-blue cloth. She had made it to the funeral.
But that didn't mean that she would be able to leave. He couldn't stop a spear of fear that Kylo Ren had seen her, identified her. She had to get out of there. Yet, nothing happened. No shouts, no chase - nothing. The dignified cortege passed without incident into the palace walls, no doubt to the cemetery on the grounds.
A Naboo holonet reporter stepped into the frame and began explaining the General's connection to Naboo. "Welcome to our continuing coverage of the funeral for Princess Leia of Alderaan. During her life she was…"
Finn tuned out the soothing monotone and thought back to the procession. The more he thought about what he had seen, the more convinced he was that Kylo Ren had indeed spotted Rey.
"Not even a mention of her being a General in the Resistance," Poe spat out, interrupting Finn's ruminations.
"They didn't even mention the Resistance!" Poe's normally easy-going tone was strident. "They talked about her being a Princess and a Senator. They even mentioned she was the daughter of Darth Vader and Padme Amidala, that she was married to Han Solo and had one son who is training to be a Jedi, but they didn't even mention that she was a General, the leader of the Resistance. What a crock of shit!"
"Right." Finn nodded vigorously. "That's just - disrespectful."
"Exactly. Can you believe that?"
Poe nodded, satisfied at Finn's level of indignation.
"I think I saw Rey there." Rose interjected.
Finn felt the blood drain from his face when Rose confirmed his suspicions to Poe. "What? That's not - uhh."
"Are you sure?" Poe's gaze pinned her. "She didn't even know about it. How could she be there?"
"I don't know, but I saw someone that looked like her - had the same color wrap around her head that she wears normally. She even had arm wraps and a staff."
Poe glanced over at Finn, suspicious. "Did you tell her?"
He squared his jaw and stood straighter. "Yes."
"Why would you do that?" Poe's voice pitched higher. "What if she's captured?"
"She had the right to know."
"She's a liability!"
"She had the right to know." Finn insisted. "And she won't betray us."
Poe threw up his arms. "If she's captured, she might not have a choice!" He paced the edges of the room.
"Look, man, they walked right by her and no one went after her." Finn answered. "I'm sure she's fine." His voice projected confidence that he didn't actually feel.
Poe sent him an angry look. "I hope you're right, but we can't take the chance. She may not know where we are, but she knows where we were. And that could send them on a hunt for us. We've got to evacuate. Again." He shot Finn a nasty look before he addressed Rose. "Put me in contact with Snap. I need him here."
Rose slipped from under Finn's arm and headed for the door.
Finn shook his head. Poe could be angry at him all he wanted. Rey had deserved to know about Leia and if she was going to betray them, she could have done so at any time. She hadn't. And he had to believe that she wouldn't, even if she was captured.
His friend was far stronger than Poe realized.
Rey felt the connection with Ben stretching as she entered the atmosphere, but it was still there. She flew in the opposite direction of the Star Destroyer that was in stationary orbit and called up the navigational charts to decide where to go. Tatooine was close, and the home of Luke, but there was nothing there for her that she could think of. She was in no hurry to return to a desert planet, regardless. Dantoine wasn't a good choice anymore since Ben knew where it was, but perhaps the time had come to find Chewie, although she really didn't want to cut his time with his family short.
C9 gave a short hoot in the back seat.
A short string of binary followed.
"Your batteries are failing? How much longer do you have?"
A single beep.
"That quickly? Damn and blast. Can we repair them or do they need to be replaced?"
C9's response took a bit too long for Rey's comfort, and returning to Naboo wasn't an option.
"Tatooine it is," she sighed. If she never saw another desert planet it would have been fine with her. But at least she knew what to expect - sand and dry heat - and she knew how to survive.
Back on the surface of Naboo, beneath the mask of Kylo Ren, Ben knew she had lifted off, and he knew the exact moment she entered hyperspace.
He'd find her again.
A shrill alarm startled Rey out of her half-slumber. Shaking her head to clear the fog, she immediately began flipping switches, trying to silence the warning siren. The hyperdrive was malfunctioning.
"Perfect. First C9, now the ship," she muttered. "I really didn't want to use those credits." She tried to tamp down a trickle of panic and quickly checked the navigational charts to find the nearest spaceport given the orbit of the planet. Mos Eisley seemed to be the best option.
"Are you safe? Tell me. I will come to you."
"Not now, Ben. I'm busy." She flipped three more switches transferring power to the hyperdrive from other systems, trying to avoid interfering with the life support systems.
Rey sighed. He wasn't going to leave her alone. "The hyperdrive is malfunctioning, and I'm trying to make sure I make it to Mos Eisley. Now go away - you're distracting me." She felt Ben retreat, but his presence remained, a shadow in her mind.
The ear-piercing alarm silenced abruptly, and she breathed a sigh of relief. The A-wing was going to hold together. On the heels of relief, she felt a stab of panic. She'd told Ben exactly where she was going, and right now she didn't any other choice but to go there.
Supreme Leader's Quarters
"Mos Eisley…Tatooine." He sighed. Of course she was going to Tatooine. Luke generally avoided discussing his home planet, but Ben was well aware of the importance of it. Why would she go there? There was nothing there for her. The Skywalkers were long gone, even the Lars were gone and had been for a generation. Then he remembered the strange apparition he'd had. Anakin had told him to go back to the beginning.
Tatooine was unquestionably the beginning for the Skywalkers.
He flipped on his comm device to communicate directly with the bridge.
"Captain Peavy, set a course for Tatooine. We leave now."
"Of course, sir." The soldier's perfectly moderated tones didn't even hold so much as a question at the strange order.
General Hux's Quarters
"Captain, after you finish your assigned task, I need you to do one more thing."
The soldier awaited his orders, expressionless and motionless. Apparently, receiving an order to carry out mass murder did not bother him in the slightest.
"Find the scavenger girl from Jakku. I don't care what you have to do to get her; do it! And bring her to me alive."
"Alive," Hux confirmed.
"Does her condition concern you?"
"Just get her here so she can answer some questions. After I have my answers, I don't care what you do to her." He nodded. "If you have no further questions, you're dismissed."
Moments after the doors closed behind the Captain, the Absolution made the jump to hyperspace.
"What the bloody hell?" Hux muttered. He flipped the switch to comm the bridge. "Captain Peavy, where are we going? I gave no order to leave orbit."
"Sir, the Supreme Leader gave the order to proceed immediately to Tatooine."
Suppressing a growl, he ended the connection. Tatooine? What was on that backwater planet? It held no military significance, and there was no conceivable reason to waste time and resources to go there. Kylo Ren needed to be taught a lesson. This was Hux's army. But Captain Ofan would be the perfect tool to deliver the message and the Supreme Leader should receive it soon.
He allowed himself a small smile as he smoothed his sleeves and lapels once again. Soon, very soon, he'd have everything he ever wanted. Now, to establish his airtight alibi.
He commed the hangar bay. "Ready my ship; I will be taking it to the Resolution shortly."
The Resolution was the sister ship to the Absolution, and the perfect base for his plans to assume command of the First Order.
Now to beard the lion in his den.
Supreme Leader's Office
Ben watched through narrowed eyes as Hux quick-stepped out the office door. On almost any other day, he would have stopped Hux from departing the Absolution, but he didn't really want or need Hux to be near him when he was so close to Rey. He and Hux had seen the same briefing; there was a revolt brewing on Ord Mantell. Someone needed to attend to the problem. He also knew that Hux hated him as much as he despised Hux. They were much better off far apart, preferably a galaxy apart. So, he agreed to the mission, halted the fleet, and Hux departed for the Resolution. They continued on the journey to Tatooine.
But something was wrong - off. He could feel it. Ben gave into the temptation to pace. Where was it? What was happening?
Rey's Force signature hummed quietly in the back of his mind; she was fine. He'd know if anything went wrong with her. No, this was something else.
The Knights were set to deploy again shortly, but since he knew where Rey was going he'd reassigned all of them to uncovering who killed his mother. The autopsy - he took a deep breath and exhaled, trying to calm himself as he thought of his mother in such clinical terms - revealed the presence of a sleeping potion. There was no way that she took that willingly.
She'd often had trouble sleeping when he was a child, especially when his father was away, which was - frequently. Once he'd asked her why she refused such measures and she'd explained that they always dulled her dreams which had given her ideas and helped her feel the people she missed the most. In his early days with Luke that had always given him comfort - that his mother was reaching out to him in her slumbering hours and felt him, loved him, missed him.
No. She didn't voluntarily ingest any sleeping potion. She'd been drugged to ensure she didn't put up a fight - and she would have fought to her last breath.
The cause of death had been obvious. No one survived two blaster shots to the chest and a shot to the head.
The assassin had been trained and devastatingly thorough.
But something else was happening. He warned his Knights to be careful, but there was nothing he could do. They were departing for their new mission in seven standard hours after they took their first meal of the day.
Nothing he did could allow him to rest. He tried every meditation technique he knew, even the ones that Luke taught him. He tried exercising: push-ups until his arms quivered and collapsed, sit-ups until he couldn't feel his abdominal muscles, running until his lungs burned. He tried sparring with a combat droid and finally collapsed in bed from sheer exhaustion, but sleep remained elusive. Nothing helped. The dread was overwhelming. There was something coming, and he was helpless to stop it. The next morning, after the seemingly endless overnight hours, the ship settled into orbit over Tatooine and the feeling had only intensified.
Then he felt it. He doubled over, the pain in his gut overwhelming.
His Knights were dead. All of them.
A/N: Did you see that coming? Thanks for reading, and drop me a review if you enjoyed this chapter!